A nationwide prison strike is now in its third day. Prisoners across the U.S. are attempting to force prison reform, and solidarity rallies have popped up to support them in their efforts to pressure the criminal justice system to make improvements.
The planned and organized 19-day protest includes labor and hunger strikes, sit-ins, and prison commissary boycotts. According to some reports, the effort could be on track to become the one of the largest prisoner strikes in U.S. history.
Here are four things to know about the nationwide strike:
- Origins. The movement was created in response to a riot in a South Carolina prison that left at least seven inmates dead in April 2018.
- Catalyst. The flashpoint appears to have been a video of 26-year-old Folsom Prison inmate Heriberto Garcia refusing food, which was then posted on Twitter, per the Guardian. From there it has spread to prisons in at least 17 states.
- Dates. The strike began on Monday, a symbolic date that marks the 47th anniversary of the death of the Black Panther leader George Jackson at San Quentin prison in California. The final day of the strike is slated for September 9. That date is also symbolic, chosen to coincide with the day in 1971 when the Attica Prison riots began in New York, which left 40 people dead before police stormed the facility.
- Demands. The strike was organized by a group of incarcerated activists called Jailhouse Lawyers Speak and supported by the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee (IWOC), a prisoner-led trade group. They have put together a set of 10 demands to improve life in prison and the penal system. The No. 1 goal is to put an end to what organizers call “modern-day slavery,” where inmates are paid incredibly low wages for their labor. Other demands include the immediate improvement of prison policies and rescinding laws that prevent prisoners from having a chance at parole, according to USA Today.